Saturday 20 September 2008

Is opera sexy?

This entry on Black Dogs made me aware of the existence of a poll launched by Playboy called Too Hot to Handel (lame isn't it?), trying to decide who is the most sexy classical music star. There are among them three opera singers (and you know how much I love opera). I am a bit baffled about the poll. The comments are crass and vulgar, for once, but that's not what bothers me. It is Playboy after all, and that has to be expected from them. I was just happy it was not Hustler! No, I was bothered by the very existence of the poll, as if you could resume sexiness by physical beauty in a medium that creates beauty through sounds. I am not a high brow musical critic and I am pretty shallow most of the time. There is sexiness in music, but it does not belong to the same medium. And for the record, I do find opera sexy, in itself. What the Playboy poll basically said is that what is sexy has to be visually sexy. Sadly, it is an approach that many opera houses probably agree with nowadays: singers are often casted for their good looks. But music should transcend that. Carmen does not have to be good looking: she is a witch, it is through her voice that she enthralls men around her. And I think professionalism is sometimes lost somewhere. Have a look on youtube at Danielle de Niese, one of the singers in the poll. Beautiful woman, no doubt. Lovely voice too, no doubt about that either. But look at the way she sings in concert. She can't keep still! It makes her performance look somewhat artificial and out of control. I sometimes had the impression to watch a pop star performing, the movements making us focus on herself, not the voice. She could sing the arias and the emotions would flow through them easily, it would all be about her voice, not about her look.

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